Sorenstam Park Return to McDonalds

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The McDonalds LPGA Championship this week is a continuation of sorts. In one corner, with last years trophy and 50 other tour victories, is Annika Sorenstam. In the other corner, with the first major of this year already tucked away and the hope of many more to come, is Grace Park. Sorenstam is 33 and playing her final few years on tour. Park is 25 and has a lot of these major titles left in her.
 
Last year the two were tied for the lead after 72 holes at the DuPont Country Club course in Wilmington, Del. On a long, wet, gloomy day that meant Sorenstam would have to play 34 holes due to constant delays, she finally won on the first playoff hole by making par.
 
The two have been 1-2, 2-1 so far this season on the money list. Sorenstam has the lead one week, Park the next. Park finally has a major too, though, having captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship in the LPGAs first biggie this year.
 
'It just gets tougher and tougher,' Park said. 'It was easy to go from 20th to 10th, and to sixth and third (on the money list). To get to the first spot, it's a lot more work. I thought playing badly was tough on the mental side, but playing well every week is harder. I'm still struggling with it.'
 
Sorenstam, meanwhile, has won 20 of the last 45 LPGA events she has entered. That includes three of her six 2004 events as she plays her scaled-back schedule
 
'For Annika, in my opinion, it's got to be that much tougher to stay up there (while playing less),' Park said. 'And she's working a lot, I'm sure, to maintain her level. That's got to be a lot of pressure on her, too.
 
'But while she's at the top, I'd like to chase her. I'd like to give her something to look back at. That's one of my goals, too. I think it will be good for women's golf and for our tour.'
 
Sorenstams win at the McDonalds last year was a huge personal triumph ' it gave her a sweep of all the womens majors.
 
To be able to do a personal Grand Slam is obviously a dream come true, said Sorenstam, and I feel like I've had the opportunity to win up there so many times - but I was never able to close the deal. So last year was really a great feeling to be able to do that.
 
The two, though not particularly close on a personal basis, have formed a mutual admiration society.
 
Grace is a few years younger than I am, said Sorenstam last year after the McDonalds win. She is going to win majors for sure. She is very talented. I think she is one of the most promising players out here, and she has a great future ahead of herself.
 
Park is aware that she is playing with one of the greatest players in the history of the LPGA. She is envious, but she is also totally realistic.
 
You know, she began, with Annika, I am - to be honest - quite jealous. You know, she is the No. 1 player in the world, she deserves all the attention. I just wish I was No. 1.
 
Is it sometimes tough to see Annika dancing around the green after yet another victory?
 
I have seen it many times, Park sighed after the McDonalds. Then she jokingly added, It just sucked that it wasn't me dancing.
 
Sorenstam, though, knows she wont be at the top forever. She knows the field is creeping ever closer. Every year, she has to continually get better, do the numerous little things that it takes to stay on top.
 
You know, in my particular case, I've always tried to raise my bar, trying to become a better player myself, she said. And I think when other players do that, they all have to hunger to be No. 1. They all have the hunger to win tournaments. You just chase whoever is in front. I definitely feel that if you don't play consistently for four days, you don't win nowadays.
 
Park is now in her fifth year as a pro after playing at Arizona State University. She feels an urgency to begin her upward movement, trying to climb past the others to a position at the top.
 
The first couple of years, it was just hard on me, she said. It took some time to get used to this life and this tour.
 
And then I started really focusing my third year, but things just didn't come around. And last year everything kind of came along, came together. I finished third on the money list and just became very consistent. I had a bunch of top-10 finishes and so I learned that I could be a top player.
 
I didn't believe in myself in the past, but after last year's performance I knew that I can finish in the top on a consistent basis. And if I just took it up a notch, that I could be a top, top player.
 
With Sorenstam talking more and more about retiring and vacating the No. 1 position, Park feels an even greater need to improve her game. Its her calling, maybe her destiny, she believes.
 
It's always been my goal (to be No. 1) and not because Annika is retiring, not because there are young players, whatever, Park said. Ever since I picked up a golf club I knew that I was going to be a professional golfer ' well, ever since I started playing competitively, I should say.
 
And I've been No. 1 at junior level, I've been No. 1 at college, amateur, and my next thing and the best thing will be to become the No. 1 professional player.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - McDonald's LPGA Championship